Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

A Mother's Story

By Shirley Dicks

My son is on death row for a crime he did not commit, and time has almost run out for him. I am trying, somehow or somewhere to find help for him.

My son was with his friend Donald Strouth on the day of the crime in 1978. He was outside in the car when Strouth went inside the store and killed the shopkeeper. My son didn't believe he was going to rip the store off as he had told him. When he saw blood on his pants, he knew something had gone down and he called me. I picked him up and he told me what had happened, Strouth had robbed the man and killed him.

Jeff turned himself in and gave a statement without an attorney. They told us he didn't need one, and we had no reason to doubt their words. Jeff told the truth; that he was there, outside in the car, but had taken no part in the crime.

The boys were tried separately. At Strouth's trial, his girlfriend said that Strouth told her he hit the man on the head and slit his throat. That Jeff froze up on him. Strouth's friend testified that Strouth said he had killed a man and his partner froze up on him. They proved that Strouth bought a car with the money from the robbery and Jeff had taken none of it. At this trial a doctor testified that the victim had been lying flat on the ground, Strouth stood over him and slit his throat which is the way the blood splattered up on his pant legs. They had his blood stained jeans, his girlfriend had taken police to where they had buried them.

At Jeff's trial, the prosecution said that Jeff went inside the store, and hit the man on the head with a rock. The same doctor said that a man could have been holding the victim's head when his throat was cut. In the first trial, he had said Mr. Keegan (the victim) was unconscious and lying prone on the floor as there was no blood on his fingers and no sign of struggle and the blood on Strouth's jeans was consistent with the blood spurting upwards from someone on the floor. He completely changed his testimony. The jurors didn't hear testimony from Strouth's girlfriend, it was called hearsay evidence. The judge told her she could not say anything Strouth had told her, which was that he alone committed the crime.

They said the boys were running through an alleyway, yet both boys said they were in the car. Either had seen the other since the crime had happened. The police said there was 2 sets of footprints, yet no pictures came out, the camera malfunctioned after 3 rolls of bloody prints of the victim.

They did not take casts of the so-called footprints, as is normal procedure. Police waited several weeks before trying to take photos of the outside crime area. My son was willing to pay for being there, but is not guilty of the robbery or of the murder, had not been in trouble before and he was railroaded because I didn't have the money for a good defense for him. In fact, I have harmed him by the things I did trying to free him from being murdered by the State of Tennessee. I wrote bad checks to pay an attorney, sold my home, tried a jailbreak and it only hurt him in the long run.

I have a letter written by Jeff Blum of the Resource Center written in 1986 to my son where he says he knows from Strouth's own mouth that Jeff is innocent, but unless he gets an attorney, he will die.

I have written to thousands of people over the years, but no one can help us. Jeff will die this year if something isn't done. I wrote a manuscript on our story, but no one will read it or make a movie out of it. I had hopes of someone seeing it and helping him. I have written to every famous attorney that I could think of, but to no avail. He still does not have an attorney and we are in the last appeal.

Time is running out for my son. I have started getting signatures on petitions to send to the governor asking him to spare Jeff's life. Perhaps you can be of help in this area by having people write to the Governor. I ask that they write to the governor, put it in an envelope and then put it in another envelope addressed to me, and at the right time I will forward all of the letters to Governor McWherter. I hope you can be of help to us and save my son's life.

Governor Ned McWherter
State Capitol Bldg.
Nashville, TN 37219
Send to:

Shirley Dicks
PO Box 321
Murfreesboro, TN 37130

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login